At Ralph Pucci, a showroom in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan for luxury furniture, lighting, fine art and mannequins, there’s room for student designs.
This month, Pucci featured the designs by two graduates from the fashion program at Pratt Institute, who participated in the school’s senior fashion show competition last May.
“The two graduates selected, Elie Romero and Fiona Conlon, best represent the ethos of the fashion department,” said Jennifer Minniti, chairwoman of Pratt Institute School of Design. “Fiona and Elie developed their fashion collections in dialogue with contemporary issues including cultural identity, while articulating new approaches to sustainability methods.” Romero placed first in the competition; Conlon was second place.
While Minniti chose Conlon and Romero to display at the Pucci showroom, it wasn’t without some input from Ralph Pucci himself. “It’s about whose designs best fit into the spirit of Pucci and who my audience would embrace.”
In recent years, Pucci has showcased Pratt fashion students in his showroom and not necessarily those who come out as winners of the annual Pratt senior fashion show. “There has to be a spirit of creativity and a willingness to embrace new ideas, which really fits well into the showroom. A lot of our furniture reflects new ideas and new materials. It’s very edgy. I encourage stores to send their fashion departments to see these student designs.
Aside from the student fashions, Pucci, located in New York at 44 West 18th Street, does showcase fashions from professional designers. His business started as a mannequin shop that evolved to present innovative and avant-garde collaborations on mannequins with fashion designers, illustrators and supermodels including Ruben Toledo, Anna Sui, Christy Turlington, Maira Kalman and Rebecca Moses. The business further evolved into showcasing furniture beginning in 1989 when French interior designer Andrée Putman created a mannequin for Pucci, and then urged Pucci to represent her furniture in the U.S. Pucci also has showrooms in Los Angeles and Miami.
Pucci places his mannequins, sculptures, furniture and lighting “so there’s room to breathe,” affording full 360-degree views. Between the mannequins, the fashion, furniture, sculptures and artwork, “It’s a very zen-like world — a whole universe,” Pucci said. “Everything has to complement each other.”
Minniti said Conlon’s collection centers around fluidity and transformation. “It’s an homage to the unifying force of the ocean and made-from-found, natural, and hand-dyed materials….The garments in this collection are in continuous flux, and create an individualized experience and connection. The emphasis is on circular design, where pieces are remade and recycled, rather than discarded at the end of their life. Garments are made from predominantly found fabrics, “upcycled” using natural dyeing processes.”
Romero’s collection, Minniti said, is inspired by the current political tension between white America and immigrants “with an ironic clash between uniforms that define the white man and Hispanic immigrant. This collection was heavily driven by the designer’s reflection on her parents’ journey to America and the experience of the migrant worker, as well as the history of workwear and the badge of delinquency represented by the zoot suit.”